Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has taken a little too literally the ancient proverb, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," in his ill-advised dealings with Russia. Having "got quit" from his job in the Trump Administration as well as his previous gig as Director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, in both cases for having played fast and loose with the facts, Flynn is now a textbook example of what can happen to a person who chooses the wrong friends for the wrong reasons.
After several years of appearing on RT, the propaganda arm of the Kremlin, hobnobbing with Russian oligarchs, and cultivating connections with Russian flatterers after his career in US intelligence went south, it has become clear what was motivating Flynn: A combination of personal redemption with a belief that the West is in a culture war with the Islamic world.
Appearing not to distinguish between a major religion and its radical offshoot, Flynn has tweeted that "Fear of Islam is rational," including a video link claiming that Islam wants "80% of people enslaved or exterminated".
In a book published last year, Flynn wrote: "We're in a world war against a messianic mass movement of evil people, most of them inspired by a totalitarian ideology: Radical Islam."
There can be little doubt that ISIS and other factions of Islamic fundamentalists are an ongoing threat to global security, and politicians of all stripes should stand up and say so. However, choosing to see Islam, and even radical Islam, in such narrow terms led Flynn directly into the arms of Vladimir Putin, who has masterfully cultivated western allies on the basis of shared concerns over terrorism.
National Security Advisor Michael Flynn arrives for a press conference between US President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the East Room of the White House on Feb. 13. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP)
In doing so, Flynn's rabid anti-Muslim worldview has blinded him to a threat equally grave to world security -- that of a revanchist and empire-building Russia.
While the Allied Forces set aside tensions with the Soviet Union during World War II in common cause against Hitler, the West paid a heavy price during the immediate postwar period in which the USSR expanded its territory and sphere of influence into a third of the European continent. The subsequent arms race, nuclear missile tests, and the near-annihilation of humanity during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1963 was a heavy price to pay for Russian support in the war.
The ISIS threat is real, and it is grave, but it must not be overstated to the detriment of European and global security. The US-led coalition to fight ISIS is containing the threat quite successfully without significant Russian assistance. Russia's geopolitical interests tend to be limited to strategic military alliances that provide material, not ideological benefits, such as the sea port in Tartus (near Aleppo), and their concern for civilians, the rule of law, and the spread of democratic values is notoriously absent from such campaigns.
Numerous US intelligence officials have concluded that the Russian government influenced the 2016 presidential election, and now there are active investigations by both the FBI and the Senate Security Committee over contacts Trump's operatives had with Russian intelligence officers during the presidential campaign. There will be several months', if not years' worth of investigations coming about Flynn's premature discussions of sanctions with Russian diplomats, and questions over who, if anyone, gave the order for such discussions.
The President's desperate about-face on Ukraine the day of Flynn's departure, after months of supporting Putin's line that Crimeans would rather be part of Russia, will hardly be sufficient to assuage concerns that illegal and undemocratic actions may have been committed by the current president and/or members of his inner circle.
The Trump Administration will continue to pay the piper for its entanglements with the Kremlin. And like Flynn, they will probably be its downfall.
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